Is­raeli exit polls sig­nal set­back for Ne­tanyahu

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD -

unity govern­ment is only pos­si­ble in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions. And I tell you and I tell ev­ery cit­i­zen to­day watch­ing us on tele­vi­sion: the sit­u­a­tion, both se­cu­rity-wise and eco­nom­i­cally, are emer­gency sit­u­a­tions,” he said. “The coun­try, there­fore, re­quires a broad govern­ment.”

Law­mak­ers in Gantz’s party also ex­pressed sup­port for a unity ar­range­ment, which could in­clude a ro­tat­ing prime min­is­ter. Gantz was ex­pected to ad­dress his sup­port­ers early Wed­nes­day.

At­ten­tion will now fo­cus on Is­rael’s pres­i­dent, Reu­ven Rivlin, who is to choose the can­di­date he be­lieves has the best chance of form­ing a sta­ble coali­tion. Rivlin is to con­sult with all par­ties in the com­ing days be­fore mak­ing his de­ci­sion.

After that, the prime min­is­ter des­ig­nate would have up to six weeks to form a coali­tion. If that fails, Rivlin could give an­other can­di­date for prime min­is­ter 28 days to form a coali­tion. And if that fails, new elec­tions would be trig­gered again. Rivlin has said he will do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to avoid such a sce­nario.

Lieber­man called for an im­me­di­ate start to ne­go­ti­a­tions and pre­dicted it could be wrapped up quickly. But such a deal prom­ises to be com­pli­cated.

Gantz, a for­mer mil­i­tary chief who has pre­sented him­self as a uni­fy­ing fig­ure in a di­vided na­tion, has ruled out a part­ner­ship with Likud if Ne­tanyahu re­mains at the helm at a time when he is ex­pected to be in­dicted on crim­i­nal charges. Lieber­man, who leads a na­tion­al­ist but sec­u­lar party, is un­likely to sit with Arab par­ties on the left or ul­tra-Ortho­dox re­li­gious par­ties on the right.

With no al­ter­na­tives, Likud could be forced to search for a new leader who can work with Gantz.

Ne­tanyahu re­mained holed up at his of­fi­cial res­i­dence in Jerusalem past mid­night, as sup­port­ers awaited him at a cam­paign event in Tel Aviv.

Ne­tanyahu, the long­est serv­ing leader in Is­raeli his­tory, had sought an out­right ma­jor­ity with his al­lies to se­cure im­mu­nity from the ex­pected in­dict­ment. That now seems un­likely.

Is­rael’s at­tor­ney gen­eral has rec­om­mended charg­ing Ne­tanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three scan­dals, pend­ing a hear­ing sched­uled next month. A for­mal in­dict­ment would in­crease the pres­sure on Ne­tanyahu to step aside if he does not have im­mu­nity.

Ne­tanyahu tried to por­tray him­self as a sea­soned states­man uniquely qual­i­fied to lead the coun­try through chal­leng­ing times dur­ing an ab­bre­vi­ated but alarmist cam­paign marked by mud­sling­ing and slo­gans that were con­demned as racist. Gantz tried to paint Ne­tanyahu as di­vi­sive and scan­dal-plagued, of­fer­ing him­self as a calm­ing in­flu­ence and hon­est al­ter­na­tive.

The elec­tion marked Is­rael’s sec­ond elec­tion of the year. Likud and Blue and White also drew even in April’s vote.

Is­rael’s elec­tion com­mis­sion said 69.4% of all el­i­gi­ble vot­ers cast bal­lots in Tues­day’s elec­tions, a slightly larger num­ber than took part in April’s vote. The com­mis­sion said 4,440,141 votes were cast in Tues­day’s elec­tions. Turnout in April’s elec­tions was 67.9%.

AMIR LEVY/GETTY

Likud sup­port­ers re­main be­hind Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu de­spite Tues­day’s ini­tial poll re­sults.

Gantz

Ne­tanyahu

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